The Child Trust Fund comes of age

It presents a unique opportunity to learn about the difference that asset ownership can make

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With little fanfare the UK is about to witness a mass experiment in the extension of access to capital. Other nations may have sovereign wealth funds, and some have experimented with universal basic incomes, but the UK is the first to create a citizen’s endowment for all young adults. From next week those turning eighteen … Continued

The UK should not weaken safety nets mid-storm

As more workers are laid-off this autumn, the grim reality of meagre support will become clear

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Resisting pressure to spend more on disadvantaged groups is seen as part of the job by battle-hardened officials in the UK Treasury. But stripping away benefit increases that have only just been introduced is rather different and doing so in the midst of an economic collapse would, to put it mildly, be something extraordinary. Yet … Continued

Churchill, the crisis and a better deal for Britain’s low paid

If we are to have a Churchillian response to the crisis, let’s have the right one

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It was inevitable, perhaps, that the current crisis would result in daily nods to our foremost leader during a time of national crisis. Mr Johnson, a biographer of Churchill, was always going to succumb. And during the PM’s illness a range of lesser known politicians reached for Churchill as they strained to rise to the … Continued

Would a richer decade have meant a happier one?

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Consider the good fortune of a country far richer than the UK. Its economy is over £300bn bigger and its workers are almost a quarter more productive than Britain’s, enjoying wages that are typically £7k higher. Households are flush enough to spend thousands more on consumption, just as public services are far better resourced. This … Continued

Sinner or saint?

The flaws of the UK labour market won’t solve themselves

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The UK labour market is lauded for reaching record levels of employment at the same time as it is lacerated for the insecurities that are said to be its central feature. Two things can, however, be true at once: an economy can be job-rich at the same time as too many of its workers are … Continued

When algorithms go to war in the workplace

Businesses crunch data to gain power; workers should bend it to their own ambitions

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One constant in public debate is the assertion that the world of work is on the cusp of unprecedented change. Amid the hype, one genuine source of flux is the manner in which data and technology are combining to alter workplace management and control. To date, this has been a tale of the good, the … Continued

Can flexibility be made to work for workers?

Insecurity over working hours and what to do about it

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As the nature of work evolves then, sooner or later, so do the constraints and expectations that society eventually places upon employers. 19th century industrial politics were peppered with conflicts over factory conditions and the length of the working day, resulting in the Factory Acts. Much of the 20th century was shaped by the rise … Continued

Act now or shrink later: trade unions and the generational challenge

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Union membership to fall below one in five employees by 2030 unless current trends reversed The future should be full of potential for trade unions. Four in five people in Great Britain think that trade unions are “essential” to protect workers’ interests. Public concerns about low pay have soared to record levels over recent years. And, … Continued

Raising low pay is welcome. But we should still fear the forces hurting family incomes

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George Osborne’s audacious unveiling of what he termed the “national living wage” dominated the budget coverage and succeeded in delighting, outraging and confusing in almost equal measure. Low-pay campaigners were certainly buoyed, just as some business leaders were appalled at what they viewed as a Milibandesque intrusion into pay-setting. Many others were left puzzling over … Continued

The View That Britain Should Be Learning Lessons From the US Labour Market Is Long Past Its Sell-By Date

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Political debates about key policy challenges often tend to idealise – and bastardise – the experience of other countries. Whether it is Finnish schools, Swedish childcare, German vocational training, Danish ‘flexicurity’, Israeli entrepreneurship or Dutch pensions, there are places that we are supposed to look to for inspiration. Usually these views are rooted in some … Continued

How much wriggle room will the Chancellor have in the July Budget?

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After the flow of easy pre-election promises, here come the hard choices of government. As George Osborne approaches his ‘emergency Budget’ attention will turn to what room for manoeuvre he really has given all the commitments that have been made. How will it all add up and is there a version of austerity that might … Continued

The SNP and austerity: how different are they to the other parties?

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Nicola Sturgeon gave a widely trailed speech in London earlier this week majoring on the SNP’s opposition to what she said was a ‘cosy consensus’ in Westminster on austerity. In providing a few new bits of information on the SNP’s view on public spending it helped fit another piece in the jigsaw that is the … Continued

Stuck or just passing through: how can policy-makers improve social mobility?

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One of the recurring fixtures of British political life is a bout of soul-searching about social mobility. Depending on the point of view of the pundit, this tends to involve a nostalgic backward glance to an era when things were supposedly better (cue unevidenced claims about the mobility-boosting virtues of grammar schools) or, less commonly, … Continued

Pay

Why hasn’t 2014 been the year of the pay rise?

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Next month we will be treated to the familiar spate of end of year reviews. Amid all that copy we can expect a regular theme to be that this was (another) year in which all the forecasts of a rise in earnings for workers were proved wrong. Inaccurate economic forecasts, especially when it comes to … Continued

Living standards
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Political parties and elections

What’s in store for the 2015 victor: winner’s curse or a steady recovery?

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One of the laziest lines in politics is that there are good elections to lose: five years in opposition are rarely rewarding. But it’s certainly true that there are less attractive elections to win and for many 2015 falls into this category. As others have said: beware of the winner’s curse. This pessimism is increasingly … Continued

Where next for the minimum wage?

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Today marks the first real terms rise in the minimum wage in six years. It speaks volumes about the convulsions in our labour market that something that was once taken completely for granted is now viewed as a significant and welcome departure. And the rise occurs at a time when there is something of a competitive … Continued

Once interest rates start rising, how can indebted households be helped through the painful transition?

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Whether it is this autumn, the New Year or shortly after next May’s election, everyone knows that interest rates are going to start rising sometime relatively soon. Yet despite the endless “guess the month” speculation about the precise timing of the first rise, little thought has actually been given to the bigger and longer-term question … Continued

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